Meeting Our First Workaway Host
After wading through a lot of kitschy tourist traps in Paris and the McDonald’s strewn alleys of Bordeaux, I was dying to get to the countryside.
Simone, our Workaway host for the next two weeks, picked us up in Bordeaux on Sunday afternoon. Giuseppe and I were sitting on an outdoor patio sipping on a Perrier when I noticed a woman walking up to us. I could tell it was Simone from her Workaway profile picture and my first thought was how beautiful she was in her linen capri pants and floral tank top with her long brown hair in loose waves and a dash of pink on her lips. I appreciate a woman with style.
Her personality was just as charming! All her previous Workawayers left raving reviews of her outgoing personality and the hospitable way she treated her guests. Almost every single person said they felt at home at her place, even on their first day. It was no exception for us.
We switched back in forth between English and French as we introduced ourselves and chatted on the car ride to her home in the countryside. Simone's French is impeccable, though not her native language. She was born in Australia and became French by marriage. For some reason she speaks French with a slight British accent! It sounds lovely.
During the car ride, we noticed two teenage boys hitchhiking on the side of the road. Simone promptly pulled over and offered them a ride. She really is the kindest! They squished into the backseat with Giuseppe. Unfortunately the teenagers didn’t speak English, and Giuseppe doesn’t speak any French so they weren’t able to communicate with each other. I thought they looked so funny squished together like that with nothing to say.
After dropping off the teenagers, we drove through the most quaint villages on very narrow, twisting cobblestone roads nestled between ancient buildings that are now boulangeries, poissonneries, fromageries, and other typical French markets. Because it was a Sunday, the villages were very quiet. Between villages are miles and miles of vineyards, the birthplace of Bordeaux’s famous wines.
As we pulled up to the home, my first thought was, "man, we lucked out!" Her home checks off every stereotype you can think of for a French home in the countryside. These pictures do not do the place justice!
Simone’s Workaway profile claims the building dates back to the 16th century, but she told us that it actually might be as old as 10th century, though it is impossible to know exactly because of the lack of historical records. Her home is actually two large stone buildings with a courtyard in between. She’s managed to build 4 apartments called gîtes in the building in addition to her own home, which she rents out to travelers as a Bed and Breakfast business. She even built a very modern pool and lounge area in the front. She’s such a boss babe! She’s a single mom who has built this business from scratch and learned construction, design, and renovation on her own.
We are lucky to be here in the spring when the flowers are in bloom. We are lucky about a lot of things!
Simone introduced us to some of the guests staying at her gîtes. Between the 4 families, there are a total of 10 kids! They’re all very tiny and energetic, and they ran around the gardens playing and speaking French. A herd of French speaking little kids is actually one of my biggest fears! haha. Kids speak so fast and slurred, it’s hard to understand what they’re saying half the time and it’s embarrassing when they don’t understand my clumsy French! I was able to talk with them for a little bit though. Go me.
Simone introduced us to Doggie the dog. He is a very large dog, with a black and golden brown coat. Though Simone warned us to be careful around him, I’ve found him to be very slow and gentle. I think his name is so cute, especially because Simone says it in a British accent.
Simone gave us a tour around the house, and as we entered the loft, she stepped outside the room through what I thought was a long window. It’s actually a door that leads to the roof of the building, and outside on the roof, she walked us over to a pointed room with glass French doors. It’s our bedroom! How quaint is that?
It felt so nice to unpack our suitcases and settle into our own room. Although I love traveling, I hate living out of a suitcase. I like having a home base and a slow routine.
Simone has two other Workawayers staying with her, Ganty and “Uncle”. I can’t remember his real name, but apparently his nephew stayed with Simone for a bit and talked about him often, referring to him as “uncle” (for obvious reasons). When his uncle decided to come work for Simone, it just felt natural for Simone to call him Uncle. The funny thing is that the nephew isn’t even here anymore. But the name lives on! Ganty is from Albania and Uncle is from Turkey. They are both Muslim and participating in Ramadan. Simone wanted to give them moral support as they go through the month of fasting, so she is participating as well!
Being the gracious host that she is, Simone welcomed us by taking us to Saint-Émilion, which is apparently the second most popular tourist destination in France. It is unbelievably charming! I’m going to write up a detailed travel guide for the city once I’ve spent more time exploring every nook and cranny of it. It’s so ancient and completely worth visiting. So stay tuned for that!
We had such a lovely time chatting and getting to know each other better as she showed us some of the sights. We visited a cathedral, a very complex and winding wine cellar underground, and more.
On the way back to the car, we ran into Anthony, one of Simone’s great friends. Anthony is British, and he was with his Irish friend Bernard. We went to a brasserie and chatted on the patio outside with drinks (except those participating in Ramadan!) I loved chatting about Irish culture with Bernard. On the flight here, we had a quick layover in Cork and the airport food was surprisingly gourmet. I shared one of the spreads on my instagram story, it looked like an authentic café styling. The food was extremely satisfying, one dish in particular really struck me. It was a little meat patty with a perfect combination of herbs. But I couldn’t remember the name! I described it to Bernard and he excitedly told me it was called black pudding (of course, they call everything pudding), made from blood sausage and herbs. Apparently the French also have their own version which is very popular in French cuisine called boudin noir. I’m so excited about this food discovery, it’s honestly the perfect match for my palate.
Anthony and Bernard came back to the house with us and Ganty and Uncle made dinner. Apparently they LOVE beans and they incorporate them into everything. Naturally, they prepared beans and rice, and a delicious red cabbage and onion salad, a typical Albanian dish. This is one of my favorite parts about traveling, learning how other parts of the world prepare their meals. Often it’s with the same vegetables, meats, and grains I use but they prepare it differently and in the end it creates an entirely different meal! And it's always way better than anything I ever make.
Anthony and Bernard were very fun dinner guests, they told funny stories and bantered with Simone and the boys. Simone told us she often has dinner guests, and I look forward to meeting more of her fun friends!
My first experience with Workaway has been extremely satisfying! I feel so inspired by life in the countryside, and I'm practically pinching myself for the chance to stay at Simone's home. Check back here on Friday for a blog post to see a typical day working in Simone's home. Workaway is magic!